Stay Home! Stay Safe! Protect Your Neighbours! – Palm Sunday Worship

You can download the Order of Service click here

You can download the Order of Service click here

Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! Save us! Save us! Save us! In times like these our ancestors have always turned to stories to bolster their courage. So, today, let me tell you a few parables which I learned from a wise preacher named Edwin D. Peterman. It is my hope that these modern parables will shed light on the Parable of Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem.

ONCE UPON A TIME,  there “was a man who suffered from various illnesses for a very long time. This man had seen countless doctors who over the years had performed countless tests on him and had prescribed lots of medicine. But the man’s condition did not improve.This man even tried home remedies to make himself feel better. He drank herbal teas and took mega-doses of vitamins along with his prescriptions. But still he did not feel any better. Then one day the man heard about a doctor who was said to be an outstanding diagnostician. So the man called the doctor to make an appointment. And even though the doctor was booked for months in advance the man was delighted the receptionist to fit him in. As the date of his appointment drew near the man was excited by the prospect of finally getting to the bottom of his problem. At last, he would find out just what was wrong with him and in no time he was sure that this brilliant doctor whose praises were sung by one and all, this doctor would be able to cure him. The day of the appointment arrived. After the doctor had thoroughly examined the man and had reviewed his tests, she sat down with him and she said, “My friend, you are not a healthy man. But you can be well again if you will only follow my advice. What you need to do is lose about sixty pounds, get involved in a regular program of exercise, and eat more grain, fruit, and vegetables.You don’t need to take any more of the medicine that has been prescribed for you and you don’t need all those vitamin pills.” When the man heard this, he was indignant. He demanded that the doctor prescribe some new medicine for him, possibly some experimental drug not yet on the market, which would cure his illness. The doctor smiled patiently and repeated her advice. “You don’t need medicine,” she said. “You need to change your lifestyle.” The man simply cursed the doctor and stomped out of the office. For the rest of his sickly life, he told everyone that she was a quack who didn’t deserve to be called a doctor.

ONCE THERE WAS A WOMAN WHO was in serious trouble with the law. This woman had run up all sorts of debts, and in desperation she had embezzled some money from the company where she worked. The Company found out and was now pressing charges against her. The woman was beside herself with worry. She didn’t know where to turn until a friend of hers told her of an outstanding defence attorney who seldom lost a case. The woman called the lawyer immediately, and he agreed to see her. She was delighted and relieved.  “At last,” she said to herself, “I have a lawyer who will get all these charges dropped. Then I’ll be able to get on with my life.” But when she saw the attorney and explained her situation to him, he shook his head and said, “What you did was wrong, and you may have to spend some time in prison. After you’re released, you’ll need to get into an ongoing program to pay off your debts. You’ll need to get a steady job and repay the company the money that you stole. If you do all this, you may be able to get your life back together again. The woman was outraged at the attorney. She expressed her dismay in no uncertain terms, “I don’t need you to give me a lecture, I need you to defend me against these charges and get them dropped. And with that she dismissed the lawyer, bad mouthed him all over town and resumed her search for an attorney who would do for her just exactly what she wanted. 

ONCE THERE WAS A SMALL NATION that was deeply troubled. For centuries the people had been oppressed by foreign armies that controlled and dominated them. Many of the citizens of this nation had become cynical about life, and as a result they cheated even their own friends and neighbors in the marketplace. It was a dog-eat-dog society. There was no peace, prosperity was only for the wealthy, and there no integrity in the land. Reform movements arose from time to time, but they soon failed for lack of support. But then there appeared a tiny ray of hope in the midst of the darkness. Little by little, people began to speak of the need for a messiah who would fix everything for them—a messiah who would overthrow the foreign army, establish a strong, independent government, and bring peace and prosperity to the whole nation. Suddenly word came that there was a man from Nazareth, a carpenter’s son, who was able to heal people, cast out daemons, and even change water into wine. He drew large crowds of people when he spoke. And he could hold his own when the authorities confronted him. “At last,” the people said among themselves. “Here is the messiah who will lead an army against Rome and reestablish Israel as a strong and prosperous nation. Here is the messiah who will fix everything for us-economically, politically, and religiously.” One day this man from Nazareth rode a donkey into the capital city of Jerusalem. The people poured into the streets and cheered his arrival. They waved palm branches and spread garments on the road and shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God Most High! Hosanna in the highest heaven. That was on Sunday. By Monday things were going downhill. This man had not even begun to recruit an army. He hadn’t announced an economic recovery plan. He was unable to unite the people. Everyone waited. Nothing happened.  People were disappointed. Several days later they grew angry. On the Friday when they learned that this man was facing death at the hands of the Romans for treason, its is said that the people filled the streets and shouted, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  The people got their wish. This man from Nazareth in whom all the hopes of the people had been invested, this man from Nazareth whom everyone expected to be the one who would fix everything for them, this man from Nazareth who was supposed to be the Messiah, the saviour – this man was forcefully and decisively executed. And when he died, all hope for a magical, mystical, presto-chango, quick-fix messiah died as well. The world has a history of denouncing and killing messiahs who don’t deliver what the world wants. The world does not want a God who is anything other than what the world wants. The world wants a lapdog god it can domesticate and control a sweet god who indulges and blesses the sickness, and the selfishness of the world.”

These parables all share the desire we have to mold our saviours into super-heros and cast our God in the role of a cosmic wish grantor.
Like the people of Jerusalem we too long for a saviour. 
Like the people of Jerusalem, we too are disappointed with Jesus.
The people of Jerusalem longed for a saviour who would drive out or destroy the Romans by any means possible.
They wanted a conqueror who would lead them to victory, hand them all the power, so that they could live in peace.
What they got instead was a messiah who insisted that victory was not the way to establish peace.
What they got was a messiah who insisted that they love their enemies, forgo the sword and seek justice rather than military victory. Jesus was not the sort of Messiah they were looking for and so the people turned on Jesus. 
Jesus’ life and death point to a Way of life that meets suffering, injustice and violence with LOVE.
LOVE that seeks compassion, justice, and wisdom in order to find healing, wholeness, and peace.
LOVE that values the least and the lost, that puts people before treasure, and teaches anyone who will listen that life is to be lived with a spirit of generosity that echo’s the grace of our Creator.
But Jesus’ Way is not our way.
Jesus’ teachings are idealistic, demanding and life changing.
And so, if our ways are to have their day, we have no choice but to demand his crucifixion over and over again, year after year, Holy Week after un-holy week.
We like our lives. We like to do things our way.
Today, not once upon a time, but today our world is locked down, sheltering in place, longing for a way out.
We want to go back to the way things were.
We want to embrace our loved ones.
We know there is a cure out there, somewhere.
We need protection.
We need medical equipment.
We want the numbers.
We demand to know.
We want to go wherever we want to go.
We can’t possibly stay home for months.
We need to bury our dead.
Is it any wonder that our desire for a saviour to come to our rescue, has many of us glued to the media, as if there is something, anything, anyone, out there who has an answer better than the one we have been given?
Stay home! Stay safe! Protect your neighbours.
Stay home! Stay safe! Protect your neighbours.
Who knew loving our neighbours could be reduced to this?
Stay home! Stay safe! Protect your neighbours.
I must confess, I would much rather have a miracle cure.
I much rather have someone, anyone, that could end this crisis with a more magical, mystical, presto-chango, quick-fix miraculous cure.
I could really warm up to a Messiah who is a supernatural super hero right about now.
As for all those “experts” out there, the ones who are telling us to, “stay home, and bend the curve”,
well they aren’t the kind of saviours that most of us want to follow right now.
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!
Save us! Save us! Save us!
Well, just like the stories our ancestors have told us, the saviour we need, is not necessarily the saviour we want.
Jesus rides in on a humble donkey to point us toward a different way of being in the world.
What we have in Jesus is a saviour who insists that we follow the wisdom of compassion to achieve healing, wholeness, and peace.
All these generations later, and Jesus’ embodiment of the LOVE that is God, bears witness to the world’s need for a different kind of Messiah.
Today, we need the kind of messiah who lives and breathes in, with, through, and beyond us.
Jesus rode into Jerusalem to set people free from their bondage to the injustices which enslaved them and
on that donkey, on that ass, Jesus mocked the people’s desire for the kind of saviour who rides in on a white horse to save the day.
Jesus deliberately chose a humble ass to point us beyond our way of being in the world toward a way of being that chooses wisdom over foolishness, compassion over indifference, generosity over greed, selflessness over selfishness, mercy over vengeance, hope over fear, and above all love over hate.
Jesus embodied this Way of being in the world so that we might be set free to save ourselves.
To all our cries of hosanna, all our cries of “Save us!”
Jesus responds with a Way of being in the world that says,
“Follow me and you will save yourselves!”
Today, our salvation will not come from a saviour riding in on a white horse to save us.
Today, our salvation will come from the collective wisdom, compassion, love, and sacrifice of millions, possibly billions of people.
People like you and me who will love our neighbours and ultimately love ourselves by staying home.
People like nurses, doctors, and every kind of healthcare worker you can imagine.
People like first-responders, retail workers, delivery workers, manufacturers, civil servants, and yes, even politicians.
All sorts of people who will venture out on our behalf, so that we can stay home and stay safe.
Yes, someday, hopefully soon, there will be other sorts of saviours who even now are working to save us,
the kind of saviours who toil away in laboratories seeking medicines who will, then be aided by people who work in manufacturing plants, and pharmacies who will deliver whatever it is we need to become immune to this virus.
But in the meantime, let us shout our hosannas, confident that our Messiah is the ONE who sets us free to save ourselves.
For the MYSTERY who IS the LOVE we call God, lives and breathes in with through and beyond us.
Stay home. Stay safe.
LOVE your neighbour as you love yourselves.
Today, wave your triumphant branches in honour of all those who go out on our behalf, for together we are the LOVE that saves.
May the ONE who IS our LOVER, BELOVED, and LOVE Itself work, in with, through and beyond us, to help, save, comfort, and defend us all.
Hosanna Blessed is the ONE who comes in the name of our God
Be the ONE,
Be LOVE in the world!

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